By Lulutani Tembo
Pauline Lot loves to write poems. When she was in primary school she wrote a poem for a competition about keeping girls in school. “It did really well and was one of the poems from our district to be selected to go to Lilongwe.”
In Malawi, girls often miss out on secondary school as they are kept home to do housework and sometimes marry at a young age. But while Pauline always knew the importance of school, little did she know she would also face challenges when it came to getting an education.
Pauline was a bright student in primary school and always finished in the top three students. After passing her Standard 8 exams she was selected to go to Nsanje Secondary School to start Form 1.
While she was excited, her family faced the challenge of paying the fees. Nsanje Secondary School is a boarding school and costs 45,000 kwacha per term (approximately US$62).
“My older sister found some money for my fees. She is a college student, but also does part-time work to earn a bit of money”.
The money got Pauline through the first term, but her sister couldn’t manage again for the second term and Pauline was sent home from school.
But now Pauline, 15, is looking forward to starting school again in August 2018 – especially because she has recently received good news: she has been put on a scholarship.
“I was so happy when I got the scholarship because I knew my future would be bright,” says Pauline, “Prior to the scholarship, we couldn’t afford school materials. I had no school uniform and I had to use the notebooks I used in primary school.”
Now she is receiving the scholarship from the K.I.N.D. Fund she is confident she won’t be sent home again.
“This scholarship inspires me to continue to work hard in school so I can achieve my dream of becoming a lawyer. I enjoy subjects like English and history because I know they will help me get ahead.
UNICEF has worked with K.I.N.D. to provide scholarships to girls at secondary schools throughout Malawi since 2014. The fund was set up by American TV host Lawrence O’Donnell.
Girls from poor backgrounds are supported with tuition fees, learning materials, school bags, uniforms, sanitary pads and shoes. The charity also provides desks for primary schools.
“In the 2017/2018 academic year, 5,585 girls in Malawi were supported with scholarships from UNICEF through the KIND Fund. UNICEF is committed to ensuring that vulnerable girls are given the opportunity to access and complete secondary school to help uplift Malawians out of poverty, ” says UNICEF Education Specialist Kimanzi Muthengi.
There are 13 girls who received the scholarship at Nsanje Secondary School. The head teacher for the school, Mr. Overton Chikuni, says the scholarship will help keep the girls in school.
“Some of our students used to stay at home for long periods because they couldn’t pay the fees. Some of them are orphans,” says Mr. Chikuni, “The bursaries are really helping these girls, especially because they provide things like school uniforms and notebooks.”
Pauline says she is thankful to the fund for the help and believes the assistance she is receiving will help her achieve her goals. “I will work hard so the people sponsoring me can see that I am serious about my education.”